Offices, factories and warehouses being raided in search of ballot papers, mayors being threatened with arrest, tension on the streets. You would have thought that I was talking about some long forgotten province in Afghanistan, but no - welcome to Catalonia. The Spanish government has vowed to stop the referendum on independence which is due to take place next month and they are using the long arm of the law to do so because the election is illegal.

The Spanish government had two options: they could either allow the referendum to take place because at the end of the day it is not legally valid and nor is the result or they could use what some are terming to be bully-boy tactics. I suspect that the police action will only help fuel the fires of independence and if the referendum doesn’t take place it will still be a victory for the breakaway movement. No one is too sure how the Catalans will vote, but the majority want the referendum to go ahead and really the Spanish government should respect their wishes.

The rest of Spain is not impressed by what is happening in Catalonia. They want the referendum stopped at once, but the government appears to be powerless to stop it despite its best efforts. This is not the Spanish government’s finest hour. The consequences are going to be big if not enormous. Until the government sits down with the the government of Catalonia I can’t see anything changing.